Rams' Aaron Donald on Playing in Empty Stadiums: 'You Need Fans to Play a Game'

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 22, 2020

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald signs autographs for fans during the NFL football team's training camp, Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald has made clear how he feels about the NFL potentially playing games in empty stadiums.   

Speaking to reporters on a video call Thursday, Donald explained that fans are a vital part of NFL games and make an impact on the players themselves (h/t ESPN's Lindsey Thiry):

"You need fans to play a game. I don't see how you could play a game without no fans. I feel like that takes out the excitement and the fun out of the game.

"... I feel like the fans is what pick you up. The fans is what makes the game exciting. The fans will give you that extra juice when you're tired and fatigued, when you make that big play and you hear 80,000 fans going crazy. That just pumps you up."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to make a determination on whether fans will be allowed to attend games this year. He previously instructed teams to devise a ticket refund policy for this season as part of a May 5 memo obtained by Barry Wilner of the Associated Press detailing the league's current position:

"In preparing for all elements of the 2020 season, including the schedule release, we have considered the unique circumstances facing us this year and have been clear that all of our decisions will be guided by medical and public health advice and will comply with government regulations. We will be prepared to make necessary adjustments just as we have in other contexts, such as the offseason program and the draft.

"I believe the policies that clubs have in place will serve the league and all member clubs in a variety of ways and will allow us to continue preparing for the 2020 season while also protecting the interests of our fans."

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Prohibiting fans from attending games in 2020 would certainly dampen the Rams' opening of SoFi Stadium this September, and it's unclear if California Governor Gavin Newsom would allow for such a mass gathering.

That's weighing on Donald. 

"You practice, and practice is practice. And then you prepare to play a game and be on a big stage and play in front of a crowd," Donald said. "... Just no excitement [without fans]. It wouldn't be fun to me. I don't think it would be fun to play a football game without fans."

The NFL has a few months to go before it will need to make a decision. Until then, Donald and players around the league will have to prepare for any outcome.